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MOOCs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Last week, my institution, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Coursera announced plans to offer four MOOCs over the next year. (I am not directly involved with this initiative, though many colleagues in my Academic Technology department are in key leadership and support roles.)We will be offering courses onVideo games and learning (+Constance Steinkuehler +kurt squire)Globalizing higher education (Kris Olds @globalhighered)Human evolution (+John Hawks)Economic markets (Randall Wright). I wanted to highlight a few observations from our campus that might be informative to others:    •    Amount of publicly available information regarding our MOOC initiative    •    Our rationale for offering MOOCs    •    MOOC platformsOur exploration of MOOCs is part of a larger campus effort called Educational Innovation which is a multi-pronged initiative to create new courses and programs and reach new learners.I commend our campus leadership for posting a lot of information that explains the background for our decision to enter the "moocosphere" (credit +Stephen Downes). We also have created an interesting FAQ.It is reassuring to hear the rationale our campus leaders have put forth for deciding why and how to offer MOOCs. They have characterized this delivery model as experimental and an opportunity to learn. They have linked MOOCs to the Wisconsin Idea, our century-old core principle of serving our citizens. From our FAQ:MOOCs provide a number of benefits.  They are an avenue for outreach and public service on a global scale.  By experimenting with MOOCs, we gain enhanced knowledge of assessment techniques, technologies, and learning analytics that may be transferable to our on-campus teaching and learning processes.  MOOCs showcase our talented faculty members and instructional academic staff and provide positive visibility for our campus and degree programs. UW-Madison has a long tradition of supporting outreach through the Wisconsin Idea and supporting pedagogical innovation as evidenced by the Educational Innovation effort.I am extremely interested in hearing from our (stellar) faculty that will be leading these MOOCs as to their experiences and insights for future online teaching and learning.Finally, I am also quite curious to learn more about the Coursera platform. If large open courses are part of our future, I cannot envision our current LMSs (Desire2Learn and Moodle) being appropriate for delivery of MOOCs without radical redesign.Regarding the use of the Coursera platform, this tidbit in our FAQ certainly caught my attention:Can UW-Madison use the Coursera platform to deliver content for UW-Madison credit courses?Yes, UW-Madison would have free use of the Coursera platform within UW-Madison for our enrolled students. Current course tools available include video course delivery, online quizzes, auto-grading, and community blogs.I had not heard of this possibility yet. My assumption - which clearly needs to be tested - is that we'll likely need one platform for traditional course delivery and another for future MOOCs. (If you have thoughts on this, please leave comments...I'd like to learn more.)Is your campus offering MOOCs? Do you have information to share that can help others? What are your thoughts about future learning platforms?

3 Proven Learning Techniques for Instructors and Students
In a 2011 NY Times op-ed "The Trouble With Homework", Annie Murphy Paul describes three effective methods for learning that are based on research in the Mind, Brain, and Education (educational neuroscience) field.Spaced Repetition - Repeated exposure over longer periods of time to information with increasing intervals of time between exposures. Here's a great resource for seeing how this method has been applied for learning languages and winning at Jeopardy!.Retrieval Practice - Use of frequent tests as reinforcement exercises. Prof. Brad Postle leveraged this technique with dramatic results through the use of frequent online quizzing. Watch Postle explain more in this video.Interleaving - A method of varying problems (or content) so that the learner constantly reloads his/her retrieval strategies in order to solve the problems (or study the content). Sounds like the muscle confusion principle of exercise programs like P90x. Here's a quick explanation and video of the principle (click the "Interleaving" topic listed lower on the page; the anchor link isn't working properly).

Sharing my notes from EDUCAUSE 2012 (finally)
One month after an excellent EDUCAUSE 2012 annual conference in Denver, I have found time to post my rough notes from the sessions I attended.You can access my notes here in a Google Doc: free to scan, add comments or follow-up with me if anything catches your eye. Warning: these are very unpolished notes, but they do contain links to videos of the sessions if available and to some related resources.Content:Keynote: Clay Shirkey - IT as a Core Academic CompetenceGetting Smart About Educational AnalyticsStarting Conversations Across Silos in Time of ChangeOpenness - EDUCAUSE Constituent GroupStatistically Significant: How Big Data and Data Science Impact Higher EducationKeynote - Blueprint for Change in Era of Rapid Reinvention - Elliot Masie and Christine FlannaganIntroducing WebEx Social - Case Western, DukeCoalition for Networked Information - Community UpdateSummary of Vendor Announcements at EDUCAUSE

Teaching Concepts with Examples and (free) ConceptTutor
I recently came across a quick article, "Six Proven Ways to Use Examples and Non-Examples" by Connie Malamed that describes a variety of techniques for effectively using examples to teach concepts.You'll want to read the entire article, but here are Malamed's ideas for effectively teaching with examples:Rule #1: Use examples in which the irrelevant attributes vary widely Rule #2: Progress from simple to difficult examples Rule #3: Present instances of a concept in rapid sequence or allow all instances to be viewed simultaneously Rule#4: Use matched examples and non-examples for concepts with related attributesRule #5: Provide opportunities for learners to generate their own examples of a conceptRule #6: Expose learners to a wide range of examples and non-examples and allow them to discover the concept This article reminded me of a wonderfully simple yet powerful tool that can help instructors or instructional designers create learning modules centered on learning conceptual knowledge. ConceptTutor Plus, freely available from the University of Wisconsin's Engage program, is a tool that "promotes effective learning through the use of definitions, examples and non-examples contextual information, and self-check quizzes."Example content created with ConceptTutorConceptTutor creates collections of html files and media that can easily be uploaded to an LMS course site or any web server.One powerful learning exercise is for students to create their own ConceptTutor modules as a way of demonstrating their own mastery of key concepts.

"Test-enhanced learning" in LMS
Is quizzing a more effective learning strategy than studying? In this short video, Univ. of Wisconsin professor Brad Postle explains his dramatic findings and the cognitive process behind this effective teaching strategy.I wanted to incorporate a newly characterized finding in cognitive psychology research -- "test-enhanced learning" -- into how I teach my 200-student lecture course on Cognitive Psychology. We did this by assigning weekly quizzes that are administered via Learn@UW and, critically, set up to provide immediate feedback in which incorrect answers were followed by an explanation of the principle(s) underlying that question. This innovation was highly successful, resulting in doubling the number of 'A's earned in the course, a dramatic reduction in the number of students who failed the course, and an overall improvement in performance by all the students in between. --Brad PostleWatch Postle explain this teaching strategy.Obviously, the LMS (Desire2Learn -- Learn@UW -- in our case), was a critical component in the design, delivery, and reporting of this educational research.I'm also proud to show off this video as it's part of the excellent work in digital narratives our department has effectively promoted and supported here in DoIT Academic Technology at UW-Madison.

Quick Thoughts on Pearson's New Free OpenClass LMS
We have known for a few years that the LMS market "is shifting". Thanks to the excellent work done by groups like Delta Initiative and the Campus Computing Project, our collective eyes have been lifted up beyond our own campus to see what is happening around us.Today, articles in the Chronicle (here) and Inside Higher Ed (here) relayed information about OpenClass, a free cloud-based LMS service (currently in beta) from Pearson in partnership with Google.As of the writing of this post, no information is yet available via Pearson. My knowledge of the product is limited to coverage in the previously mentioned articles and my participation in a private demo of Pearson's precursor "Project Berlin" a few months ago.(Updates: Adrian Sannier tweeted a link to a "teaser site" for OpenClass: Also, Campus Technology reveals many features of OpenClass in an interview with Pearson's Katy Kappler.)Regarding OpenClass, I found a few interesting aspects to this new product:Social networking & modern interfacesObviously any new learning platform must leverage social networking features and modern communication vehicles such as robust messaging, in addition to an improved modern interface (a strength of Instructure's Canvas LMS). Traditional LMS products are playing catch-up in these areas. OpenClass seems to place a high priority on activity streams and communication notifications. OpenClass also has some integration points with Google Apps (Calendar, Docs, and later, widgets).Pearson's "Learning Exchange"During the "Project Berlin" demo, Pearson reps discussed LMS integration with their forthcoming "Learning Exchange", Pearson's digital content marketplace. Learning Exchange was demonstrated as a separate system where instructors can share curriculum, content and communications while discovering other resources (cost and no-cost). Pearson also mentioned that they were talking with Merlot and other OER providers as a way of providing more learning content directly to students at no cost.The extent to which faculty will a) find useful and relevant resources, as well as b) share out their materials and ideas certainly remains to be seen.Leadership of Adrian Sannier at PearsonAdrian Sannier, VP of Product at Pearson, brings a wealth of academic experience as former University Technology Officer at Arizona State (where he led the first massive higher ed conversion to Gmail) and previously as a member of the faculty at Iowa State. I will be very interested to monitor the acceleration of Pearson in the non-profit higher education market and also Pearson's LMS trajectory.Emergence of another "instructor-choice" optionWill universities' LMS landscape evolve into a hybrid model that might include a primary centrally managed/supported LMS, secondary "niche" LMS's for specific disciplines or programs, and now instructor-choice options like OpenClass and Blackboard's free CourseSites? It is likely that instructors will increasingly be tempted to adopt learning environments provided by the publishers of their course textbooks. How will this diverse LMS landscape impact students and their desire for convenience? Where will expectations be set for university support staff?Today's news from Pearson is just one more tremor in the current landscape shift that is occurring.What do you think is most significant about this news from Pearson and Google? I'm quite curious to hear your thoughts and questions.I am excited for students and instructors that their experiences with learning environments are improving -- even if that means difficult work for those of us leading and supporting the change.

Notes from "What's New in Digital Learning Environments" webinar
On June 28, 2011, the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) hosted presentations by Michael Feldstein (Cengage Learning) and Niall Sclater (Open University) in a webinar, "What's New in Digital Learning Environments".I was hoping to learn more about Michael's work on the MindTap product and hear for the first time from Niall who is very well-respected in the higher ed LMS/VLE community. Turns out they didn't disappoint.I jotted the following notes which I thought would be of interest to many. I apologize for the brevity. Please, if you have questions or comments, just post them below.Niall's presentation discussed some future directions for the LMS/VLE.The future is:Interactive - This includes more advanced quizzing technologies that provide feedback and options for adaptive learning.Mobile - Users will demand unfettered access to LMS on mobile devices and tablets. Niall said that a student "should be able to do a whole degree" via mobile device. eBooks and eReaders will continue to be important. eBooks are different than basic PDFs of articles, chapters, or books in that the student owns the book and likely views and treats it differently than an ephemeral document such as those we so frequently use online.Social - How will learning environments interact with Facebook? Should these systems even interact with Facebook at all? A survey of Open University students revealed that more than 50% reject Facebook use for their studies. (~30% accept.) Privacy is the biggest concern; students also want to separate their personal and academic worlds. Niall also pointed out a number of other online tools such as iSpot where learners can participate socially online for specific learning activities (without integrating with Facebook).Personal - Learners will likely want to continue to construct their own environments through tools like iGoogle. Learning environments should evolve so that they "push out bits" of the LMS for external consumption (example: course calendar, course news, other notifications). Niall thinks students would prefer to construct their own dashboard rather than use their institution's system (similar to how most of us use the Twitter service and not the Twitter web site).Michael Feldstein, Cengage Learning, discussed the future of MindTap. MindTap is not a new LMS, rather it is a unique way to deliver content and learning activities. If I heard Michael correctly, he called MindTap "a meBook wrapped in a weReader".He noted that the future of eBooks looks bright. In 2011 Kindle sales have surpassed paper books on Amazon.MindTap:Is a single purpose system (learning content that is personalizable, social)Bidirectional with rest of InternetAllows for the construction of "Learning Paths" (similar to table of contents), Units (chapters), and Learning Activities (readings, quizzes, flash cards)Learning Path is not just navigation, but architecture; it allows a path to be constructed through some (but not nec. all) content; multiple Paths can be created for different groups or needs (cram session, remedial, or even personal)The architecture is built so that future analytics can be built and leveragedInterface: focused on doing one thing at a time well which works very well in a "post-PC world" where screen space is limited; device agnostic HTML5 eReaderMindTap's Features:ability to highlight textnotepadtext-to-voiceintegration with other services (Google Translate, Docs, blog service, perhaps EverNote, etc.)discussions that can be added to the exact spot where you need it (back end integration with LMS)Gradebook? No comprehensive gradebook (never will be); MindTap collects data on what/how students are learning; will eventually pass scores back to LMS gradebookBasic LTI for AuthNZMindTap's relation to LMS:Pulls aspects of LMS into MindTap…you only go to LMS for big picture management of resourcesKind of like Twitter…we use the service in a multitude of interfacesI asked Michael how we (university IT) might first see MindTap appear on the radar of faculty. He said faculty might be exposed to MindTap when they make textbook purchasing decisions. He also added that Cengage would, obviously, love to discuss institutional approaches to leveraging MindTap. He also reiterated that the LMS landscape is in flux and is likely to change over the next few years.Overall, I appreciated this well-coordinated webinar (thanks ALT). Niall and Michael confirmed many of the assumptions my institution has been making regarding the future of our learning systems.It's an exciting field in which to work and learn, and I'm optimistic that the challenges we will be facing in the very near future will lead to some very interesting opportunities for students and instructors.--Citation:Sclater, Niall and Feldstein, Michael (2011) What's New in Digital Learning Environments webinar recording (made in Elluminate). In: ALT/ELN webinar: What's New in Digital Learning Environments, 28 June 2011.

Growth of Non-Blackboard LMS Options
Michael Feldstein has provided a very interesting analysis of the current LMS market in the U.S.:The Evolving LMS Market, Part IDecember 21, 2010Using data from the Campus Computing Project, Feldstein illustrates how it likely is a myth to frame the LMS landscape discussion as "Blackboard vs. Open Source". The growth of not only Moodle and Sakai -- but also Desire2Learn -- signifies a measurable movement away from the Blackboard conglomerate (Bb, WebCT, and ANGEL).I'm struck by a number of pointsDesire2Learn and Moodle have made huge gains in the U.S. market and specifically within a few market segments.Blackboard's share is slipping significantly.Sakai's growth among public research institutions is worth following.Here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we are using Desire2Learn as our centrally supported course management system. However, Moodle has been implemented in many of our schools and colleges for various reasons and we are collectively considering the future of Moodle on our campus.After reading Michael's post and seeing the trends among public research universities, my fear is that my colleagues and I might be overly distracted by the emergence of Moodle and not focused enough on Sakai.UPDATE: Recently, Delta Initiative stated that an archive of their 12/16/2010 webinar "New Choices. The State of Learning Management in Higher Education Systems" will be posted online within 10 days of the event. It will be very interesting to compare their findings with those of the Campus Computing Project and Michael Feldstein. Stay tuned.

Unanswered questions raised for D2L
Like Barry Dahl, I too will not be attending next week's Desire2Learn users conference in Chicago. My reasons were more run-of-the mill: family time and coaching duties primarily.In his latest blog post, Barry takes a principled stand (I suppose mine is based on principles too) and is actually boycotting the conference.I appreciate the issues and questions Barry raises about D2L and their handling of the last (latest?) chapter in the Blackboard-D2L edupatent saga. He speaks for all of us when we ask collectively, WHAT THE HECK D2L?? I think we have all gone on our merry ways tending to the daily fires and to our local projects and have set aside our nagging curiosity stake in the issues.I do hope that those attending the conference receive some answers to these questions.If I were to attend the D2L conference, I would also like to ask a question related to the release of Learning Environment 9.0 that my institution launched this week. "Why didn't you do more to better accommodate the transition of the navigation bars to .NET?" Custom links, customized tool names, and many graphical elements have been hosed by the upgrade.By not attending the conference, I will certainly miss the UNconference and the hallway conversations with D2L staff and peers from around the world. My biggest regret is missing a great chance to connect with 7 faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Madison who are attending for the first time. For those attending, if you see them in your sessions or at lunch, do make them feel welcome!

Blackboard's Patent is Down to its Last 30 Days
Last week, Ray Mosteller revived the discussion of the Blackboard-Desire2Learn saga by articulating a number of questions pertaining to the settlement between Blackboard and D2L. One of Ray's questions caught my attention. He wrote, "What ever happened to the USPTO rejection of all claims in the Blackboard ‘138 (Alcorn) patent? Or the USPTO re-examination of the ‘138 patent. Is this still ongoing? Is there a chance that the USPTO could revive the ‘138 patent?"Last we heard, the US Patent and Trademark Office was re-examining the patent and had issued a series of "non-final" decisions that invalidated all 44 (then later all 57) of Blackboard's claims related to the '138 (aka Alcorn) patent. I assumed that Blackboard had appealed that decision, but I cannot find evidence of that.My attempt to uncover the current status of the patent re-examination led me to the attorney, Michael Spiegel, representing the Software Freedom Law Center and its ex parte re-examination request with the USPTO. Spiegel graciously informed me that a final Right of Appeal Notice has been sent to Blackboard regarding their last opportunity to appeal the USPTOs decision to overturn all claims in the '138 Alcorn patent. Blackboard has 30 days from March 12 2010 to file their appeal. If they do not, then the re-examination is complete and the USPTO decision is mercifully declared final.In reviewing the publicly available Right of Appeal Notice, this statement by the USPTO nicely summarizes the nature of this infamous patent:"The claimed invention is merely a combination of old elements...The combination is an adaptation of an old idea using newer technology that is commonly available and understood in the art and thus obvious."Note: I've posted the USPTO's Right of Appeal Notice here (PDF, 1.3 MB). The document contains a record of all the arguments made regarding the existence of prior art to invalidate Blackboard's claims.Update:Many thanks are also owed to SFLC's former patent attorney Richard Fontana who "did all the heavy lifting in this case", according to Spiegel.

Jon Mott: Bridging the Gap Between the PLE and the LMS
Back in August 2009, Jon Mott gave this presentation at OpenEd 2009. He reports on their work at BYU to create a new learning environment based on PLE principles.I strongly encourage anyone interested in the future of the CMS/LMS to watch this presentation. I took away the following points:1. PLE values (student-centric, openness) more closely match the values of the institution than do the values of the CMS2. Lack of continuity for the learners from semester to semester exists in the current CMS. We typically turn off access to course sites at the end of the course. It’s the “chief demerit of the course management system” Mott says.3. Stand-alone gradebook. This is a highly important progression in the future of the course management system. Integration with various systems will be key, but de-coupling this critical tool is the first step.4. Get rid of the dropbox? He says that instructors can now tell students, “Don’t upload your paper, just give me the URL for where your paper lives on the web”. Furthermore, he says, "Maybe one of the requirements for being digitally literate in 2009 is being able to publish a web viewable document”. Bingo. How many institutions offer easy ways for students to publish on the web? However, I do know that many instructors value the ability to zip and download all the submitted papers for an assignment in order to more efficiently read and grade (likely after printing!) — something the digital dropbox currently offers.Good stuff! I’ll be following Jon Mott and his work at BYU more closely these days. Some of my colleagues saw him speak at ELI 2010 recently and posted their summary and comments here.

"Live" updating of active Desire2Learn course sites
Thanks to a great idea from Alan Levine (aka CogDogBlog), here is a live look at the number of Learn@UW/Desire2Learn course sites activated for this fall semester:This is a chart published from a Google spreadsheet. I'll be updating the spreadsheet periodically and this chart should dynamically reflect the changes I make. Very cool.

"If we're disconnected, we can't Twitter. If we can't Twitter we don't exist"
Today's attacks on Twitter and a reported slowdown of Facebook changed the day for many.Today reminded me of this video I had seen earlier:It's a good reminder to keep our social connections real and pay attention to how true friendships are formed and maintained.Oh, and if anyone wants to follow me, I'm @jbohreruw.;-)

The Spinmeisters
You gotta love the quotes in Campus Technology's coverage of the federal appellate court's decision in favor of Desire2Learn.From Blackboard's Matthew Small:"...we believe they are infringing multiple patents of ours, and we will continue to pursue what we believe is a fair result in the appropriate venues. This is really just a blip in the overall intellectual property dispute between Blackboard and Desire2Learn. I don't think it changes their prospects as a company one bit."And from D2L's John Baker:"It is a definitive win. We are celebrating this victory for Desire2Learn and education as a whole. We are incredibly appreciative of the support we have received from the educational community. We look forward to the day that Blackboard will return the judgment paid."Hmmm.

Great news for Desire2Learn
Desire2Learn just announced:"We are pleased to announce that the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled on the appeals that resulted from the trial in Texas. The Federal Circuit has ruled in favor of Desire2Learn across the board and confirmed that all 38 patent claims asserted by Blackboard are invalid."D2L CEO John Baker proclaimed via Twitter:"We won our federal circuit appeal! Posted on #Desire2Learn patent blog at Thanks to all of you for your support!!"This could be the first in a series of victories for D2L in their litigation saga with Blackboard that began in 2006.The findings from the appeals court apparently will be useful to future patent applications in their construction of "means plus functions" claims.Self-proclaimed as "The Nation's Leading Patent Law Blog" states:"Defendant Desire2Learn wins a complete victory (after a few million in attorney fees)."

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